Reflections on 2018, Eyes on 2019

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect and evaluate. For DeGorter Inc., total growth in 2018 was not what we saw in 2017, but we did experience exceptional growth related to laminated glass products. Likely you experienced growth in some way as well and I am sure we all want to keep that momentum rolling into 2019. However, there are two specific areas we’re going to keep a close eye on this year: labor and the current political environment. 

Only two months into the new year, and we’ve experienced a partial government shutdown with the uncertainty of another looming. We also face the possibility of tariff increases in the first quarter, and a strong labor market which is often a double-edged sword. Additionally, we expect fluctuations in the USD’s strength, which can influence our industry and the economy. This translates to a year with more uncertainty than we prefer. 

But it is not all doom and gloom. This uncertainty may contribute further to a potential employment trend, a buzzword I was hearing more and more during the last quarters of 2018: onshoring, or the return of domestic employment. For the manufacturing and service sectors we operate in, some of this uncertainty in the global market may create opportunity. As the cost of manufacturing outside our economy is being wholly reevaluated, companies are looking at bringing back operations that left long ago.  

Despite the possibility of onshoring, the current labor market continues to be one of the more difficult areas to navigate, and wages, supplies and costs look like they will continue to rise in 2019. With current unemployment rates as they are, finding the best people to fill open positions may continue to be a challenge.

However, securing and keeping talent does not have to come down to a higher wage, greater benefits or a higher total compensation. In our experience at DeGorter, there are other matters which drive employees, especially those in younger generations. Flexibility is one advantage to retain people, and we’ve found that giving employees freedom to make decisions contributes to better quality and a more fulfilled person. We’re not putting in table tennis and kegs just yet, but we are listening to what is most important to keep turnover low in a labor market more favorable to the talent.

There are absolutely items to keep a keen eye on for the coming year, but overall, we are feeling optimistic about opportunities for 2019. Manufacturing remains strong, investment in operations are continuing, and glass remains one of the most versatile building products in the world with continuous development of new products. We feel 2019 could be another excellent year for our industry and look forward to reflecting next year, around this same time, on what we accomplished together.

Pete de Gorter is vice president of sales and marketing at DeGorter Inc. Contact him at pete@degorter.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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